Santa’s not a marine biologist (fact), so he has us put together his ocean Naughty & Nice list each year. He said it was okay to share our research, since, as well all know, marine mammals celebrate Christmas on the 23rd.
By Berry Dann
Naughty: Stoner dolphins While many Americans voted to legalize weed last election, some dolphins just couldn’t wait. A BBC miniseries, Dolphins: Spy in the Pod, unearthed an unsettling trend in the dolphin community. Many dolphin youth have taken to experimenting with the toxins found in puffer fish to get high. After chewing on puffer fish, dolphins are known to act exceedingly bizarre, often entering a trance-like state and getting up to no good.
Nice: The sperm whales that adopted a deformed dolphin
When a pod of sperm whales found a lone dolphin swimming off the coast of Portugal, the ocean giants welcomed the newcomer into their family. This act of pure compassion may have saved the bottlenose dolphin’s life, since the animal was born with a severely deformed spine. For eight days, the mismatched family traversed the open ocean together, until going their separate ways.
Naughty: The California fishermen who are throwing explosives at sea lions
Along the west coast, California fishermen are throwing explosives at sea lions to protect their fishing nets. The deafening blasts carry for miles underwater, and the coinciding pressure waves are painful for humans and sea critters alike, especially whales. Scuba divers in Monterey, California, report being driven from the water when fishermen throw explosives dangerously close to dive sites. Unfortunately, this extreme practice is not illegal – the Marine Mammal Protection Act allows fishermen to use non-lethal measures “to deter a marine mammal from damaging the gear or catch.” However, seeing the use of these ‘seal bombs’ in action makes it a bit harder to believe this is truly safe.
Image Source: Nature Picture Library / Alamy
Nice: The rescuers that saved six beached sperm whales in Indonesia
When ten sperm whales beached themselves off Indonesia’s Aceh coast in November, professional rescue teams and local volunteers rushed to the animals’ aid. Working tirelessly into the night, the rescuers were able to successfully free seven of the ocean giants. In the end, six from the pod survived, all thanks to the efforts of the alerted conservation groups and many selfless bystanders!
Image Source: CNN
Naughty: The selfie-obsessed mob who thought it was okay to play with a stranded baby dolphin In August, a baby dolphin died after hundreds of tourists in Mojacar, Spain surrounded the animal to photograph it. The baby was apparently separated from its mother and accidentally swam into shallow waters. Instead of helping the stressed dolphin, nearby beachgoers instead began passing it around to take selfies and touch it – some inadvertently covering the dolphin’s spirable, the blowhole it uses to breathe. Only one person in the crowd of onlookers had the sense to alert local authorities, but by the time emergency rescuers arrived, it was too late. The baby dolphin had died just 15 minutes earlier, still surrounded by photo-fixated beachgoers.
Image Source: Equinac via AFP/Getty Images
Nice: The volunteers at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Center
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre has had quite a busy year to say the least! So far, they have rescued 202 harbour seals, mostly pups, in addition to three sea lions, a fur seal, and several other marine mammals! This rescue season has shattered the previous record of 174 harbour seal rescues made in 2005. Most of the center’s patients were in need of medical attention, ranging from dehydration to injuries from animal attacks. In a press release, Lindsaye Akhurst, manager of the Rescue Centre, said, “We’re happy whenever we can save an animal, no matter how big or small. It’s why we do what we do.” Keep up the amazing work, Vancouver!
Image Source: Vancouver Aquarium
Naughty: Monterey Bay’s psycho sea otters
Despite their cute and cuddly appearance, some sea otters living in Monterey Bay’s kelp forests have picked up the horrifying habit of drowning and humping seal pups. Some otters may spend days harassing and attacking a baby seal until it eventually dies. That’s when things get really naughty. These sea otters have been observed then copulating with the poor pup’s corpse.
Nice: Otters helping Bangladeshi fishermen catch more seafood
For centuries, Bangladeshi fishermen have trained otters to catch more fish. Swimming alongside their boats, otters work seamlessly with the fishermen, luring animals into the men’s waiting nets. This rare, coordinated act has been passed on from father to son for generations throughout Bangladesh.
Naughty: This sneaky sea lion Two proud fishermen were left sorely disappointed when a photo-op of their prized catches turned into a crime scene. Taking advantage of the fishermen’s momentary distraction, a sneaky sea lion hopped out of the water, stealing the freshly caught fish right out of the man’s hands. A bold play for a smooth criminal – lucky for us, the whole thing was caught on tape!
Nice: The humpback whales who save seals from orcas
For years, stories have popped up about humpback whales protecting other animals from orcas. From sunfish to seals, humpback whales are known to intervene and save would-be prey from attacking killer whales.
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You can determine a whale’s age by counting the rings in its ear wax